Author Archive

Cure Alliance on Campus: Temple University

Students from Temple University have  created a new campus chapter of Cure Alliance for Mental Illness. Cure Alliance campus groups unite students across disciplines to promote public understanding of mental illness and research. They support our mission by educating their peers about the science of mental illness, reaching out to the community through local schools and community groups, and advocating with their elected representatives for more funding for mental illness research. This is the second campus chapter of Cure Alliance; you can read about our inaugural chapter at George Mason University here. The new group, called Cure Mental Illness–Temple, will be led by co-founders Evan Calvo and Shanna Cooper. Evan is a junior Psychology major and Biology minor and wishes to eventually pursue graduate education in Psychology. Shanna is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in Temple’s Clinical Psychology and Neuroscience programs. Her research interests include the relations between cognition and emotion in […]

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Supporting BRAIN: Research for Cures

A promising start In April 2013, President Obama announced the BRAIN Initiative, an effort intended to take brain research to the next level and advance understanding of perhaps the most important and least understood object in biomedical science today—the human brain. The initial announcement was made with great fanfare, though relatively little funding was promised at that point to support the initiative. Since then, however, many government agencies and private foundations and institutions have dedicated funding and resources to this important effort to understand the brain and its disorders better. Hundreds of funded grants have already begun to produce results, for example, improved ways of turning neurons on and off in experimental animals and a design for a brain-scanning helmet, allowing PET scans of people while they are active. The need to push forward So far, the BRAIN Initiative has had strong bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Each year since its inception, […]

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Brain Awareness Week: A Festival for the Brain

Every year, in March, international Brain Awareness Week features educational activities all over the world, organized by local partners under the umbrella of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. Brain Awareness Week is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research, and this year it takes place March 14-20. Last year, we wrote a piece describing Brain Awareness Week and why on earth we need such a thing. The short answer is: because the brain is infinitely complex and with new discoveries coming at fast pace, it’s hard to keep up! This year, we took on Brain Awareness Week in our home state of Rhode Island, and we created Brain Week RI, with the help of many dedicated people who are interested in brains—neuroscientists, neurologists (no, they’re not the same thing), artists, college students, mental health providers, and a bunch of people who […]

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George Mason Students Start Cure Alliance Campus Chapter

Students at George Mason University (GMU) have rallied to Cure Alliance’s mission of education and advocacy and recently launched the inaugural campus chapter of Cure Alliance, Cure Mental Illness (CMI) GMU. Mason has responded enthusiastically. Within a few short weeks of establishing the group, over a hundred undergraduate and graduate students from disciplines including Neuroscience, Psychology, Nursing, Social Work, and Global & Community Health contacted CMI to ask how they could contribute. Our members are energetic, bright, motivated, and bring diverse experiences to the table. Many are currently engaged in research projects, have worked as clinicians in mental health care, or are active participants of community groups that support mental health. Many have been personally affected by mental illness and see the organization as a means to positively impact their lives and alleviate the suffering of loved ones. Opportunities for CMI members abound. At Mason, students can directly participate in […]

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Research Focus: Bipolar Disorder in a Dish

A research study has used a new cellular model to see “inside” the brains of people with bipolar disorder. We can’t always see what we want to see inside the bodies of living people, despite all the technology we have for looking—from X-ray to MRI to endoscopy.  In particular, our methods for looking at living people’s brains are pretty limited. One of the common ways around this, especially when we want to learn about a disorder affecting humans is to study a model of the illness. Animal models are the most common—say, a mouse or rat that has been subjected to stress or trauma and shows signs of anxiety or depression. Such models are somewhat limited since we can’t ask the animal how it is feeling, and because rodent behavior is much less complicated than human behavior. A cellular model is another option—a cell that can be grown in the […]

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Suicide Research: Let’s Fund The Agenda To Reduce Suicide

What can suicide research tell us? Ultimately, we want research to tell us how to reduce suicide and suicide attempts. A lot of approaches exist for preventing suicide—some we’ve tried and some are just proposals or ideas. But which ones work best? Better guardrails on bridges? Better training for emergency room personnel? What other places in the healthcare system are the best intervention sites? What about the purported wonder drug ketamine, which still carries a lot of question marks? There actually exists a strategic plan for answering these and other questions. A national strategy and a research agenda The U.S. Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (a public-private organization) developed a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, including goals and objectives that dictate actions. The first national strategy document was created in 2001 and the second (most recent) one came out in 2012. One of the goals of […]

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Can we prevent suicide?

It’s fair to say that in the U.S., our attempts to prevent suicide thus far have failed—the rate of deaths by suicide has been constant for decades. In 2013, over 41,000 people died by suicide in the U.S. For Americans, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death (homicide is 16th). It is the second leading cause of death for 15 – 24 year olds in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death in that age group worldwide. September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Are we learning anything that could help us prevent suicide?   So what is research telling us? Research has given us a pretty good picture of risk factors for suicide, and not much more at this point. We still know very little about why people attempt suicide under conditions where others do not. Nor do we have a very good sense of which interventions work […]

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Can Fish Oil Stop Schizophrenia?

“Fish oil could prevent schizophrenia.” You have probably seen the headlines in the past weeks. This is the sort of news we all dream of—a way to prevent a serious illness before it develops, using a really safe treatment. The results from the study conducted in Vienna, Austria, are truly promising, but cautious optimism is still the prevailing mood, even among the researchers who did the work. Let’s unpack the story … The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have been discussed as a possible treatment for schizophrenia since at least the 1990s, though research has not shown that fish oil supplementation has any effect on people already living with schizophrenia. However, the Vienna study, led by Paul Amminger of the University of Melbourne in Australia, suggests that fish oil can protect against the development of full-blown psychosis when taken by young people showing early symptoms that could develop into schizophrenia or another […]

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How Close Are We to Cures?

A good question We recently received the following email: hi there, i was wondering how close we are to cures for mental illnesses like ocd, depression and schizophrenia. I wish there were a simple answer to this question – something like “Really close!” or “We’ll have cures next year.” But the truth is more complex, and probably comes in several parts. We are closer to cures than we were before In part one of the answer, we could compare our search for cures to where we were in 1887, when Emil Kraepelin identified schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as separate and distinct disorders (though he gave them different names than the ones we use today), and in a sense founded the modern study of mental illnesses. Kraepelin believed that there was a biological brain basis to mental illnesses, though he couldn’t possibly know what it was, given that the field of neuroscience […]

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Reflections on Mental Health Month

May was Mental Health Month here in the U.S. Some call it Mental Health Awareness Month, but we like Mental Health Month, because we want the focus to be squarely on mental health and mental illness, not just awareness. Awareness about mental health is important, of course, and so is decreasing the stigma of mental illnesses. But ultimately, both of those goals fall short of relieving the symptoms of the millions of people that live with mental illnesses without effective treatment, or with effective treatments that carry bad side-effects. Over the past month, Cure Alliance for Mental Illness ran a social media campaign sharing images with words that expressed our desire for cures for mental illnesses—we called it Hope4Cures and it started some important discussions. About the word “cure,” one person wrote to us on Facebook, “I just don’t like that terminology in regards to mental illness and mental health. […]

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